M-P Board continues wrestling with 1999-2000 budget cuts

Posted 5/27/99

While the Mid-Prairie Board of Education Monday made no decisions about actual cuts to reduce …

By Mary Zielinski (free-lance)

While the Mid-Prairie Board of Education Monday made no …

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M-P Board continues wrestling with 1999-2000 budget cuts


While the Mid-Prairie Board of Education Monday made no decisions about actual cuts to reduce …

By Mary Zielinski (free-lance)

While the Mid-Prairie Board of Education Monday made no decisions about actual cuts to reduce the 1999-2000 budget by $189,000, it declined to leave the process to the superintendent and business manager.

In fact, a suggestion by Board President Tracy Anderson that “maybe we should come up with a dollar amount (for cuts) and let the administration figure out how to do it,” evoked a response from board member Elizabeth Curl that “the budget is our responsibility. We are not wasting our time.”

Anderson had asked the board if it believed it may have “gone too deeply. Maybe we’ve mucked about.”

After a further brief discussion, the board agreed to continue looking at the list of areas from which cuts could be made.

Prior to Anderson’s suggestion, the board had taken a lengthy review of the maintenance area, starting with the maintenance director position.

Specifically, the board was asked to consider if it should continue the maintenance director position that costs the district a total of $41,000 (salary and benefits).

Created two and one-half years ago, the position, noted board member Ray Marner, “is not functioning the way we planned,” noting that the out-sourcing for services is more than had been expected. He added that the result could amount to a form of double payment.

During the discussion, Pat Curl told the board that out-sourcing services were more than $13,000 for 1997 and 1998, and for 1999 are $15,000.

He also gave the board a copy of an invoice for $200 from a mechanical contractor from Cedar Rapids that “was to adjust a thermostat.”

Maintenance Director Jim Adam asked who had made the call (indications are he did), and noted that some controls, such as Johnson Controls, cannot be done by other than the company.

He also said that he has some $3,000 in billings from a firm that he is contesting and “we are negotiating right now.”

Board member Ed Whetstine noted that “one person cannot be skilled in every area,” suggesting that there are times outside services have to be called.

Board member Craig Schweinfurth asked “if it (the maintenance director job) ran as it was set up, would it be a benefit?”

Marner replied that that was what the original board study indicated.

Curl said that “with finances as they are, we should look at it (the position). Maybe, eliminate it.”

Adam finally told the board, “Do what you feel is best,” but cautioned them that without the position the district will spend more for maintenance and that “there will be chaos.”

He explained when he took the position, the district buildings “needed work” and that he had been told it could not be done in one year.

He also asked that the board reach a decision quickly, that for more than two months his position has been on the top of the list for possible cuts “and it keeps getting put off.”

He asked that the board make a decision for his sake and for that of his family.

The maintenance position will remain on the possible cut list, the board decided, then went on to discuss custodian positions. After considerable discussion about the need to keep up the buildings on a daily basis, the board agreed with the principals that cutting custodians could adversely affect buildings.

However, Superintendent Gordon Cook said “I want to caution you about removing too many items from consideration,” which led Anderson to suggest the board leave the actual cutting to the superintendent.


The board learned that it will not have to reduce assistant coaching positions because the Athletic Department’s Clearing Account (from non-General Fund sources) can cover the approximate $8,000 sought in cuts.

Athletic Director Don Showalter explained that “very little comes from the General Fund,” and said that the department staff regularly uses its own vehicles rather than school ones anyway. The Clearing Account also covers all travel, lodging and other expenses for teams and staff.

He said that the Clearing Account has consistently run in the black for at least the last ten years, and said that the Athletic Boosters are a major fund raising source.

He explained that all Booster money is handled by two people, both of whom sign off after every counting following an income producing event. The money “is then counted twice more” by separate secretaries.

“It is double checked all along the way, and deposited the next day.”

Except for salaried positions, the department raises and covers all its expenses, he added.

He also noted that Mid-Prairie plays host to “a lot of state-related events, and we get a percentage of the gate for each event. It’s a very good source of funds.”


In fact, at the meeting’s end, Showalter had an announcement for the board that the Crane Foundation has donated $10,000 toward creation of a new weight room facility at the high school.

The board went on to discuss eliminating a bus route (which was done in January and will continue), eliminating shuttles and the mail route, increasing student fees for books and other items, especially Driver’s Education, and not paying for an out-of-state travel by the board or administration.


The board agreed to hold another meeting at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, June 3, at the high school to continue budget cut discussion and also to have a closed session for the evaluation of the superintendent. The evaluation was tabled Monday to permit more time for budget cut discussion.

In reply to a question from a resident, Cook said that there is no installaion of an ICN classroom at the high school because “we do not have the funds at present.”

The arrangement is a partnership with the state which has provided the equipment.